Play the fool

Joey did public relations for recycling firms back in the ‘80s.

My mother is fun to be around, except when she doesn’t censor what she says. She really hurt my feelings after I told her that my 5-year-old son is having trouble in school. I have been doing everything in my power to help: getting him to a counselor, into special education, scheduling evaluations, etc. My mom said kids like him fall through the cracks, then get involved in crime and end up in jail. She says unless I have millions of dollars, there is nothing I can do to help. She does the same thing to my sister. When my sister stopped telling mom details of her life because of the hurtful comments, my mom decided that my sister’s medication was making her a zombie. I’m 29 years old and don’t think I can take much more of this.

So you want to censor the woman you claim doesn’t censor herself? That’s hopeless. Here’s sanity: Your feelings are hurt because you keep expecting your mother to be someone different than she is. You want her to listen to concerns about your son and respond with wisdom and tender understanding. But she’s unpredictable. So each time you choose to talk to her about personal matters you are gambling with your serenity. There is nothing wrong with tossing the dice, but since you opted to gamble, please take responsibility for losing.

If you can’t stop giving your mom things to criticize you about, you must learn how to play the fool. The next time she rants about what will happen, engage in playful banter about her budding psychic skills. Comprende? When she imagines an abysmal future for your son or his aunt, laugh and offer to buy her a lottery ticket, with a caveat, of course. She must split her winnings with you since, as she knows, your son will soon need millions. If you are not lighthearted, you might start believing your mom because, well, she is your mom. Yes, she’s a maternal authority figure—like you. That’s right. The other side of this situation is about growing up and beginning to see yourself as an adult who is equal to your mother. When you do, her words will have little weight and you will have much freedom.

The couple that lives next door to me is arrogant and idiotic. The wife is a schoolteacher and seems to think that she needs to teach me a few lessons about recycling. It’s impossible to have a conversation with her without hearing a lesson on why recycling is important or how they only need a small garbage can now. The crazy thing is that both of these people are grossly overweight. Most of their recycling is plastic soda bottles or cans, packaging from frozen meals and other inefficient and unhealthy options. I try to avoid these neighbors, but I hope you can offer some witty comeback I can use the next time they try to thrust their supposed green superiority on me.

Have you tried “Thank you”? In some situations expressing gratitude is the best option. Oh, I understand the hypocrisy of individuals or organizations that trumpet how much they recycle without ever noting a corresponding drop in how much they waste, er, use. Recycling is far easier than reducing, right? But your real lesson is about garbage. You’re keeping too much of it in your head. So reduce the amount of space you allow your neighbors to occupy in your brain. Then reuse that space by filling it with childlike delight (at the innocence of people like your neighbors). Finally, recycle the energy you’ve been expending and pour it into seeing the best in those around you.

Meditation of the Week

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions,” wrote poet Rainer Maria Rilke. What are you waiting for?